of Opening All Bhumis Without Tantra
In May of 2019, I was contacted by Christine from Canada, who told me of her positive experiences with some core Open Heart-practices that she had learned through the internet. Prior to that we had not been in any contact. She was quite confident that she had in fact opened all of her 13 bhumis as taught in Open Heart Bhumi Model. She sent me a photo for bhumi analysis that I used to verify that her analysis was correct.
Christine's case is a historic one because she is the first person who got this far with Open Heart-practices without any tantric empowerments. She, no less than, stabilized natural state or knowing awareness (tib. rigpa) as her default mode of being. I have waited for a while to get a message like her's. All of our core practices have been openly available through the internet for a few years now, so anyone can and could use them for their benefit. Find more written accounts by practitioners from What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice.
-Kim Katami, 11.7.2019
Open Heart Sangha
Find Christine's first post here:
I am 48 years old, single and work as a lab tech in a hospital lab. About fifteen years ago, the stresses of the job, plus having to work with some "difficult" people led me to look into meditation as a way to cope, as well as to help get rid of the anxiety I have suffered with for most of my life. I took a one-day introductory class in meditation taught by a former Theravadan monk who introduced the class to basic mindfulness of the breath. From this experience I tried to develop a daily practice with limited success. Fortunately, the teacher gave us a list of local resources in our area to help us continue our practice, primarily there was insight meditation society that sponsored teachers from around North America to come teach at monthly weekend non-residential retreats. I started to attend these and had exposure to a variety of Theravadan Vipassana teachers. I learned a lot about Buddha’s teaching, and mindfulness practices at this time, but was still trying to establish a consistent meditation practice and was still struggling with the stress and anxiety in my life.
I also started to attend about two residential retreats (one to two weeks in length) per year. I found that these residential retreats really boosted my meditation practice. Yet, despite being able to sustain my concentration on the breath and experienced states of calm and tranquillity, as soon as I was off the cushion or returned home from a retreat I went back to normal, the stress and anxiety came back and even though I tried to maintain mindfulness in my daily activities once things got rough or I was triggered I went back to my reactive self.
My teachers did often talk about enlightenment as the ultimate goal of the practice, it wasn't clear how mindfulness led to that nor where the insight part of fit in. They also made it seem as though enlightenment was some far-off thing to happen in another life or if you became a monastic. I was still waiting to see a reduction in the suffering I experience, or have some hope of this ever happening.
Something changed in May of 2015, a day before the end of a two-week retreat, I was attending. In the middle of the night I experienced, which in hindsight I realized was crossing the Arising and Passing. This is a threshold moment in the Theravadan progress of the insight path which leads to the dukkha nanas (dark night) and potentially stream entry. I was fortunate that I had an interview with one of the assistant teachers the next day as I described my experience to her, she became very happy for me and said that this was a good thing and had something to do with the “progress of insight”. This was all she would say. Leaving the interview, I was rather confused and when I tried to continue the practice schedule my sits were plagued by restlessness and irritability. Before the retreat ended on the last day, I was able to get an interview with the primary teacher and as I described my experience again the teacher said she wouldn't confirm or deny whether anything significant had happened nor elaborate on the progress of insight the other teacher mentioned.
I left the retreat confused and frustrated, and I fell into a full-blown dark night, it was rough and I had no idea what was going on. I was highly irritable, had bouts of anxiety and depression, I was a mess. As I was going through this, I remember what the assistant teacher said about the “Progress of Insight”. This led me to an internet search where I came across Dharma Overground-discussion forum.
This site was a lifesaver for me, I was able to understand why I felt the way I did and suggested the best practice to do to find my way out of it by reaching stream entry. With this knowledge I practice with great determination and intensity and was able to reach stream entry by August 2015. I continued doing this practice, known as Mahasi Sayadaw noting and the following May in 2016 I reached what was called second path in the Theravadan map. Though I had noticed definitive changes in my sense of self, the way I perceived the world and was better able to deal with stressors, I knew I had more work to do.
I again continued with this practice with the aim of reaching third path, but over time I found that it wasn't really working for me anymore. The intense noting often left me tense, very irritable and more sensitive to external stimuli. I was constantly cycling in and out of the dark night, although it was never as bad as my initial experience with it, it never seemed to lead anywhere. This also created a lot of striving, efforting and comparing, which I felt was not conducive to good practice. I tried switching to a broader awareness but this often led to dullness, and sleepiness. I read several books on different practice techniques, some felt overly conceptual or analytical, or too hard for me to get into and none that I really enjoyed doing.
I was still frequenting the Dharma Overground-website and noticed a number of posts by Kim Katami about Open Heart-teachings. I checked out the website and read his first book "Awake! Handbook to Awakening." I was hesitant at first because it mentioned Guru Yoga and Dzogchen practices which I was unfamiliar with.
In October 2018, I had a week long self-retreat (with no teacher) coming up. Just the previous month, Kim Katami had released his second book, "What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice". Intrigued, I downloaded and read it, I liked what it had to say. I noticed the website had a link to a YouTube channel so I used some of those guided practices on my retreat.
I really enjoyed these practices and when I came home, I meditated daily using the guided mediations from the OpenHeart.fi-channel at YouTube. Primarily the “Introduction to Open Heart Yoga: Guided Practice” and the “Dynamic Concentration: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha”, as well as a number of other guided mediations to add some variety to my practice. I found that, compared to my previous mediation practices they were more relaxed, I didn’t suffer from dullness and sleepiness, and didn’t lead to irritability. I also felt like there was much less striving and efforting, it was though I could just listen to the guidances and the practice does itself.
I also like the idea that you can check for your own bhumi openings. At first, I wasn’t able to do this myself, but the more I did the practice the more I was able to notice subtle energies and tensions in my body. I believe I was able to detect the opening of the 5th bhumi, and I was more certain about the 6th. I noticed cycles between bhumis openings were there would be a build up of tension or pressure, then dark night and then I would often see a bright light and feeling of euphoria as the bhumi opens, with the subtle euphoria lasting a few days then it would repeat. I was detecting steady bhumi openings about 2-3 weeks apart. This increased my confidence in the practice, and as these openings occurred, I also noticed changes in myself. I was becoming more resilient to stress and less reactive to triggers. I became less concerned about what others thought about me (I have always been very self-conscious) and less prone to overthinking everything, as well as a general reduction in social anxiety and my general ‘day to day’ anxiety (yes, I had a lot of anxiety).
In May 2019, I had another week long self-retreat coming up and I had opened the 10th bhumi a few weeks prior. Again, I had my mobile phone along with the OpenHeart.fi -YouTube-channel bookmarked, so I could listen to the guided practices. A few days into the retreat I woke up at night with some intense fear, a fear of losing my "self", a fear that I would disappear or die. I struggled against this fear telling myself that it will be okay. Then something shifted. I felt bliss and an incredible sense of peace, aliveness and clarity. The natural state seemed easily accessible as though it had become a default state. I eventually fell asleep, and when I awoke in the morning these experiences persisted. I checked my bhumis and it felt like I had opened my 11th, the first mahasiddha bhumi. The 12th and 13th bhumi openings followed not long afterward and I was starting to get used to and appreciating my new baseline experience.
Now I have a more spacious awareness at all sense doors, and a feeling that there are no boundaries between my physical body and what is around me, like there is no separation between me and what I am observing. Before Open Heart-practices I only had brief glimpses of this. Also prior to Open Heart, I used to be identified with my thoughts and emotions, be attached to views, and continued to have bouts of anxiety, but that has eased considerably. Along with access to the natural state there is a sense of stillness and bliss that I can easily tap into. I also found that at work, even though we are currently understaffed, I am much better able to handle the pressure which would normally make me feel overwhelmed. I think my coworkers are starting to notice this too.
Knowing that bhumi openings were not the end of the line, that I still needed to perfect them, I decided to learn Open Heart Yoga. I had the first empowerment in June 2019, and am really enjoying the new meditation techniques.